Studying the Immortal Jellyfish Could Lead to Discoveries About Aging

After reaching maturity, the immortal deep-sea jellyfish known as Turritopsis dohrnii reverts to a juvenile stage and repeats its life cycle. In oceans across the globe, this tiny jellyfish species displays its remarkable death-defying abilities every day. The way it goes back to a juvenile stage would be similar to a butterfly turning back into a caterpillar and metamorphosing again into a butterfly after that. Because this deep-sea creature repeats its life cycle indefinitely, it’s earned itself the nickname “The Immortal Jellyfish.”

Studying the Immortal Jellyfish Could Lead to Discoveries About AgingTurritopsis Dohrnii Has the Remarkable Trait of Being Immortal

While scientists have known about this species and its ability to stay alive for nearly 20 years, a new study has looked at the animal’s genes to determine how it stays immortal. In the paper, a team of researchers mapped the genetic sequence of the jellyfish, showing key molecular mechanisms responsible for the rejuvenation of Turritopsis dohrnii. The researchers have pointed out that their work could promote further research into improving the health of aging humans and fighting aging altogether.

The Immortal Turritopsis Dohrnii Could Succumb to a Predator

Like most jellyfish, the immortal Turritopsis dohrnii begins life as a free-floating larva until it finds a hard surface to attach to. There, it matures into a branching, plant-like polyp, and multiple young jellyfish bud off to turn into medusae or the adults of the species. However, when an adult immortal jellyfish is damaged, instead of dying, it absorbs its tentacles to become a blob and settles on the sea floor where it becomes a new polyp, which can form more medusae. This means that while Turritopsis dohrnii may succumb to a predator, it cannot die of old age.

The new study compared Turritopsis dohrnii to Turritopsis rubra, which are related species. Compared to its relative, the immortal jellyfish has double the amount of genes to repair and protect its DNA. This allows it to produce more restorative proteins. There are also differences in other genes, including those associated with stem cell population and replication. The mutations of Turritopsis dohrnii allow it to preserve its telomeres that protect the end of a chromosome. These differences seem to be key to the jellyfish’s immortality.

Researching the Immortal Jellyfish Could Lead to Discoveries About Aging

According to researchers, this new finding could help humans with their battle against aging. While it’s unlikely humans can use the same mechanism to gain immortality, scientists could likely come up with better answers to many diseases associated with aging. By better understanding the immortal jellyfish and its genes, humans could be inspired to come up with new regenerative medicine.